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The 2012 IFA Kayak Tour Championship was held this past weekend in Chalmette, LA. I had the pleasure of competing with some of the best anglers in the nation. The weather was great and so was the fishing!

I left out on Tuesday making my way south to meet up with friend and fellow angler, Aaron Ruble, creator of I Cast in a Yak. We fished his local waters on Wednesday morning, on the off chance that we might make the drive back to Alabama for the tournament. There is no limit on where you can fish as long as it is a public fishery. We met up with a friend of Aaron’s and hit the water a little after seven o’clock. The fishing was slow and we only caught a few small specs, some white trout, and Aaron lost a nice flounder at the side of his yak. Definitely, not looking like a potential tournament spot.

The next morning we hit the road at two o’clock, after only a couple of hours of sleep. We made the four hour drive and we were on the water by seven. The wind was up a little, but we knew the tide would be moving and hoped the fish were as well. I literally saw hundreds of sheep-head and managed to land a couple. In practice, I hooked up on one nice bull red that hit top water but lost it shortly afterwards. We saw several nice reds, and finally Aaron was able to locate a few trout near a small cut in the grass. With time running out before the captains meeting, we were forced to quit for the day and make the two hour trip north.

The next day we rose early to prepare for the 6:55 launch time. Looking out across the flats, visibility was close to zero. A dense fog had cascaded the area overnight. I felt confident that this would help us and make the fish more willing to take the bait. I had decided to bring an extra rod from my truck that I use for both fresh and salt water. This rod was the only one I had not spooled with Spiderwire braid. Instead, it only had 10 lb test Trilene mono. I tied a short piece of 12 lb flurocarbon on and a 1/4 oz gold jig-head. Once we made the erie paddle through the fog we reached our “trout hole”. I threw top water for a minute, but with no strikes decided to switch to the jig-head previously mentioned with a Gulp! Jerk Shad in Camo color. I made a few casts and retrieved the bait slowly letting it sink to the bottom before giving it a slight jerk and then taking up the slack. It did not take long for a couple of trout to make their way to the measuring board. I knew the biggest, at 14 and 3/4 inch, was small but could not hold back the urge to move off onto the flat where I had lost the big red in practice. As the fog was lifting I paddled onto the flat near some small grass islands, only to spook half a dozen reds off on the way out. I again threw my top water bait several times with no takers and decided to move on. I realized quickly if I was going to be able to sneak up on the fish and sight cast them, I would have to do it standing. This was no problem for the Jackson Cuda, a boat made for the action. I put my rod in my right hand with bell open ready to cast, and my paddle in the left. Slowly I worked my way back toward the location where I had spooked the reds. I had not even made it halfway when I saw a wide shouldered redfish straight ahead of me. I wasted no time and casted the Gulp! just in front enough not to spook it. I pulled it slowly toward the fish and just as it came into view he turned on it, ate, and shot off like a bullet. Shocked as I was at his size, I set the hook and the fight was on. After what seemed like forever, the bull red came to rest in my lap. I could not stop smiling. I knew this was a close tie for being the biggest redfish I had ever landed and the biggest fish I had caught from my kayak. I measured the fish at 38 and 5/8 inches, snapped a few pics, and released it back. As he swam off I could do nothing but thank God. A few minutes later when I had collected my thoughts I wanted to find Aaron and see how his day was going. As I approached him, I could see a smile and knew he had had some luck. He had sight casted a 24 inch red using his fly rod and saaw the whole thing unfold in front of him as the fish waked to eat his fly. This was an amazing day for the both of us.
At the weigh-in, I had managed an aggregate measurement of 53.43 inches. This was good enough for seventh place. I could not believe that I was in the top ten out of fifty-one great anglers. Also, overwhelming was the number of huge bull reds that had been caught. One was longer than the 45 inch measuring board that everyone was given to use in the event. We talked a while and headed back to rest and prepare for day two.

The water was calm like the day before, as the wind had not been present like on practice day. The fog, however, was non-existent this morning. I wish that I could say the same about my nerves. I had went into the tournament praying only for a fish of each species to weigh in on both days, but now I was in the top ten. I wanted to hold on to my position and knew that it was going to take a miracle. We paddled out, mimicking the plan from day one, to our “trout hole” . Throwing the same Jerk Shad as the day before (not the exact same one, but rather a new one from a pack I had tracked down at Wal-Mart the night before) I was able to quickly boat a 17 inch trout. I knew now I had increased my trout size from the day before and decided to move out on the flat again. I stood up this time on the way out, so that I would have a chance on any fish that would be close to the small islands as I passed. I missed three decent reds right away. The sun was just to low enough in the sky for me to see them far enough away. I threw the top water bait again for a while with no luck. Other anglers, including first place winner, Benton Parrot, had great luck with top water in the tournament, but not me. I waited till about 8:30, about the time I hooked my fish the day before, to start sight fishing again. I stood up almost in the same spot as I had seen and caught the bull the day before. It was only a few seconds before I spotted two upper slot reds in front of me. I made a cast several yards ahead of them, and before I even knew what had happened a bull red had picked up my bait and ran with it. I set the hook in a panic and began to fight the fish. Not sure how big it was I thought and hoped it would be over 30 inches. As I was pulled around I began to wonder if the fish would ever tire out. The 10 lb mono was stretching to the max and before I knew it an hour had past. I did not know what to do so I tightened the drag down some and began to drag my feet in the water to add preasure. Another hour had past and I was feeling fatigued and wondered if the drum would ever feel the same thing. Finally, after two and a half hours I netted the beast and had him in my lap. To my surprise the fish was not as long as I had thought but must have weighed over 30 lbs. I measured the fish at 41.75 inches, and after spending twenty minutes reviving it, snapped some photos and realeased it alive. He swam off and I was finished for the day. The ride back to the weigh-in that day was filled with thoughts of how everyone else had done.



After all fish had been accounted for and the announcements where made, I stood in fourth place. I could not have been happier to be around such a great group of anglers. This was my first year competing in the IFA and it will not be the last. Aaron finished 37th and was the only angler that I know of that took a fish on the fly.

To see the results from the event click here

Special thanks to the IFA for their hard work and great events and Jackson Kayaks for the Cuda!